There was a brief period of relief when my kids were babies and toddlers, but pre-kids and now post school-aged kids, your life truly starts in September. And that means gearing up (literally and figuratively) for a new busy schedule that includes school, sports, activities, and hopefully vacations!
To start, may I recommend appreciating the baby and toddler years with regards to flexibility time-wise. You can take advantage of cheaper travel during the school year and are not beholden to any schedule other than your own! If you end up with competitive and/or motivated kids like mine, you’ll find yourself among the hordes at the airport during school breaks thanks to equally demanding hockey and dance schedules.
And these activities add up! According to a recent TD survey, 40% of Canadian parents with children under 18 years old spend $1,000 or more on extracurricular activities per child during the school year and half of them find budgeting for these activities stressful. For us, $1,000 would be a bargain, and the fees and equipment costs seriously cut into our vacation and other fun funds!
TD offers some valuable advice to start saving and offers tips for fitting it all in:
- Create a budget and stick to it. Before the school year starts, create a budget for all the annual expenses you can think of related to that extracurricular activity, plus five to 10 per cent extra to cover potential surprises like the end-of-season framed team photo or a championship sweatshirt. Online budgeting tools can help you determine how much you’ll be spending monthly and ensure you stay on track. Saving a little each month and putting it into your savings account or TFSA can also help offset extracurricular expenses. Also, consider having your child sit down with you as you plan for these costs as it’s a great way to teach them about the importance of budgeting and saving. And, it’s never too early to learn about responsible money management, so even if it’s very little, have your child contribute to the cost of their activity.
- File your receipts. Keep a record of all your child’s extracurricular activity costs and payments. Some fitness and art classes could be tax deductible on your 2016 tax return. Receipts also act as a good reminder of what items you paid for this year when it comes time to plan for the next time around. All of this may help boost your tax return for 2016, which is usually my family’s vacation fund!
Parenting coach Terry Carson suggests that parents take stock of the emotional toll that running around with kids takes on you. After-school activities can involve fighting traffic, rushing through dinner, and doing homework late. Find balance between your needs and desires and those of your children.
For us, these crazy fall and winter schedules make family vacations even more important and essential!
Many thanks to TD for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own.